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3D-Printed Robots Can Self-Assemble When Heated

3D-Printed Bots

The left image shows a template for a humanoid robot, while the right image shows the completed self-folded humanoid shape.Image credit: Daniela Rus/MIT.

3D-printed robots could fold into shape and be assembled after being heated.

In order to allow a two-dimensional sheet of material to be assembled into a 3D machine, the scientists utilized heated sheets of a kind of polymer known as PVC (polyvinyl chloride).

In the following step, such sheets of material are spread between two rigid polyester films full of slits. As being heated, the PVC will shrink, thus the slits becoming shut finally so as to push against each other and change the shape of the PVC. In accordance with the pattern of slits and the way the interaction of heat with the PVC take place, this process will enable the material to be bent into different shapes, when slits of different sizes push against each other, the material will then be folded into 3D structures.

According to the statement of Daniela Rus, a professor of engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, what they are doing is to achieve the very complicated global control so that every edge will be moved in the system simultaneously. By doing that, scientists are intended to design such edges in the way that composing all these related motions, which in fact interfere with each other, will allow the correct geometric structure to be shaped.

One of the latest researches aims at identifying the approach to produce the 2D pattern of slits so as to make these foldable robots possible. And another is targeted at producing electrical robot components like resistors and capacitors made of the self-folding laser-cut materials.

Shuhei Miyashita, a postdoctoral researcher at MIT, has succeeded in designing a polyester sensor coated with aluminum, which could be attached to the robots if they are completely assembled. In the shape of a small accordion, the sensor is made of folded material which could enable electrical currents to be compressed and easily pass through the system. To help the movement of the robot, a motor could be made from a foldable copper-coated polyester coil for such purpose.

These two studies are closely linked with the previous researches undertaken by work done by Professor Daniela Rus, and Professor, Erik Demaine of MIT, who have been working on how origami folding techniques could be utilized for robot designing.

The results of these findings were released at the 2014 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation held in  Hong Kong from May 31-June 5.

Source: Live Science

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